Transport of the harmful bloom alga Aureococcus anophagefferens by oceangoing ships and coastal boats

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 2004, 70 (11), pp. 6495 - 6500
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It is well established that cyst-forming phytoplankton species are transported in ships' ballast tanks. However, there is increasing evidence that other phytoplankton species which do not encyst are also capable of surviving ballast transit. These species have alternative modes of nutrition (hetero- or mixotrophy) and/or are able to survive long-term darkness. In our studies of no-ballast-on-board vessels arriving in the Great Lakes, we tested for the presence of the harmful algal bloom species Aureococcus anophagefferens (brown tide) in residual (i.e., unpumpable) ballast water using methods based on the PCR. During 2001, the brown tide organism was detected in 7 of 18 ballast water tanks in commercial ships following transit from foreign ports. Furthermore, it was detected after 10 days of ballast tank confinement during a vessel transit in the Great Lakes, a significant result given the large disparity between the salinity tolerance for active growth of Aureococcus (>22 ppt) and the low salinity of the residual ballast water (∼2 ppt). We also investigated the potential for smaller, recreational vessels to transport and distribute Aureococcus. During the summer of 2002, 11 trailered boats from the inland bays of Delaware and coastal bays of Maryland were sampled. Brown tide was detected in the bilge water in the bottoms of eight boats, as well as in one live-well sample. Commercial ships and small recreational boats are therefore implicated as potential vectors for long-distance transport and local-scale dispersal of Aureococcus.
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